Nothing this week.
In order to best encapsulate my response to this week’s readings, I’d like to revisit the important milestones of Japanese modernization, but from my own perspective. The stage is set with an evanescent Japan and a choir warmly chanting “you suck, I suck, we all suck.” Comm. Perry walks on stage and tilts his head to listen. A look of bewilderment crosses his face as he addresses the chorus. “Haha what? No. No that’s crazy. Have you seen my magic iron boat? Or the sections of the world I’ve conquered with it?” And suddenly, a look of hunger enters into his eyes. (Inouye, 106) Stage right, a worried Aizawa walks forward and addresses the chorus. “No, hey, guys. We don’t suck. THEY do. They’re a bunch of asses. We’re perfect.” (Inouye, 108) And then more men (Robun, Okakura, Kuki) walk on stage and drown each other out, some addressing the chorus, and some the Comm. (Inouye, 104, 118, 122) Until Notibe’s voice breaks the din*. He speaks to Perry, but does so loud enough that the chorus can hear. “My dear sir, I do believe frank that our exchange of vocabulary gestated in an entirely unsatisfactory manner. We don’t suck, nor have we EVER sucked. We’re just like you. We use symbols and valued chivalry. And hey- remember Feudalism?” And while he berates Perry with poems from every Western poet, a small group of exquisitely dressed men listen in, wringing their fingers. They break out a pack of pastels and begin furiously drawing a portrait on a half-blank canvas. FADE OUT. *(The copy of Bushido I used doesn’t have page numbers. I was referencing when Notibe expresses the entirety of Shinto as a symbolic religion of “loyalty” and “piety,” his comparison to the honor of “knighthood,” and his implication that Bushido is dying out in the same way Chivalry did.)
Yesterday, around evening, it suddenly went from a warm sunny day with flurries to a cold damp rain, and I became morose.
I remember the soft snow
drifting down through the sunlight
before the sky went dark
I want to talk about my difficulty with the weekly assigned poems. I know they’re certainly not the same caliber as the ones written by Basho, but this is more of a question concerning process. You say in your book that “much artifice went into the writing” and that their creation did not “necessarily happen as noted.” (Inouye, 74) But in class you express that they are spontaneous works of emotion. My problem, though, is that I have always expressed my emotional elation in traditional prose, and the poems themselves don’t really *happen* organically. Instead, I take a sort of mental image, and spend a long time afterward trying to remember it as well as possible. Is there a better way? Moving on, I like that he dressed like a priest, but “was neither a priest nor an ordinary man,” because that’s what the protagonist of Preacher does to indicate he is a man who lives to aid his fellow men, rather than a man of god. (Inouye, 79) Sora, on the other hand, strikes me as a an oddly religious fellow. He names himself “religiously enlightened” (Basho, 101) , and drifts into concepts of gods, holiness, and the divine in his later poems. Specifically, “What divine instict/ has taught these birds/ no waves swell so high/ as to swamp their home?” (Basho, 130) Which is kind of funny, because of course birds’ nests get swallowed by waves! You just can’t TELL there have been any nests there. I also wanted to point out something another student mentioned in class. The poem on 132 concerning “concubines and I-/ bush-clovers and the moon” seems to me to mean that he identifies so closely with the concubines and their earthly profession, that all of them are simply beautiful bushes undearneath the midnight moon.
Sitting in my room with a special lady after a long weekend of hedonism. (She’s typing up a report)
A downward gaze
her fingers moving soundlessly
I find Saikaku’s narrator to be inhuman. You mentioned in class that, like this woman, Hester Prynne falls into the category of the “bad woman” who men envy, except that Hester was a real woman. She felt heartbreak and loneliness and loved her daughter and wanted to love Dimmsdale and chided herself for cheating on her husband. But the narrator here is bereft of the depth that would make her story compelling. The passages you point out (73, Inouye) are the only ones of true self-reflection I could find, and are very inconsistent with the existing mood. You can’t go 40 years without emotion and then suddenly find you are lonely. If one considers the tone of certain passages-”but the days passed and I forgot all about him,” (159, Saikaku) “to my surprise, people blamed me,” (171, Saikaku) and “during my two years of cheap prostitution there I had all sorts of experiences,” (192, Saikaku)- you realize that her affect is inappropriate. If the character is to be believed, we would assume this is a woman with a severe personality disorder. Maybe this is the “self-conscious schizophrenia” (8, Norinaga) Norinaga speaks of. That was a joke. From what I gather, that reading implied that “mono no aware” is a sense of “powerlessness and sadness” (10, Norinaga) that pervades the Japanese thought. They intellectualized this strict class and power structure by externalizing it, and the feeling exists to this day. And I think that this kind of nation-wide shared experience is beyond anything an American could really understand. As you point out in your statement to students (81, Inouye), the mono no aware experience is essentially class-based. So how can a non-minority successful student in the 1st world like me really understand?
Awake in the middle of the night on Monday with a bloody nose, standing by the nightlight in the bathroom.
Eyes, cold and red
A dim light in the wall
I get the idea of Nothingness and Something when applied to making friends and not needing any more. But it’s a misleading reduction. They say extroversion and charisma are things that people “have” or “haven’t,” but I’m not sure that’s the truth. I think we’re all just mired by our own compulsions. Look at Atsumori- Taira admits to being as deep in sin as “the sea by a rocky shore” (Atsumori, 69) while Kumagai is so wrapped in remorse he lives as an ascetic. But when the both of them stop being overcome with these preoccupations, they are “re-born together.” (Atsumori, 73) And I truly believe it’s no different with the people you meet every day. Remember in Middle and High school, how you could go to class and be self-conscious *all day* about a blemish or stain on your shirt, or some mistake you made in class? The truth is everyone felt like that. And there are two ways to get over it- 1) point out other people’s shortcomings and put them on the defensive or 2)get over it. What weirds me out about Japanese culture is that the emphasis seems to be on option (1). As you say in E & F, “there are no excuses for doing things the wrong way.” (Inouye, 64) But then you say that “kata becomes a counterbalance to evanescence.” (Inouye, 65) But isn’t this MORE than a counterbalance? In Atsumori it’s a direct conflict! Kata demands that the two BE preoccupied with their duties, but the story reaches its climax when kata falls to the wayside. Do the Japanese *like* when kata is overcome by evanescence?
Walking in the Powderhouse circle around 11:00pm on Friday night, passing another group of daring travelers.
I cannot feel my ears.
The wind rips around me,
silhouettes in the distance.
This week we read about the boy with the flute, the moving of the capital, and some reasons to be homeless. The idea of “shukke” came up in lecture 3 (Inouye, 2/6) and I gotta admit it sounds appealing. However, in REL 194 (Zen and Tea) we are currently reading about the history of Buddhist monks, and the rigid lifestyle doesn’t really grok with me. If “shukke” meant I could go to a new village and be a new person, that would be sick. Why take classes when I can just make a new name and catch fish? Writing that, I realize I obviously have my reasons for staying, but still. Concerning the readings: the story of the samurai that must kill due to their honor (even when they don’t want to!) is pretty sad, but it super reinforces the “form” concept of the course (Heike, Chp 9). It kind of breaks my ‘eart that the Minamoto guy AND the Taira kid felt rules were more important than life, because we’ve learned that “form” is there to sort of counteract “evanescence.” But here the “form” reinforces it. How’s that for personal reflection? Alternatively, the houseless Chomei (Hojoki, 29) had an evanescent fluidity that dwelled upon the chaotic nature of Mother nature and the stupidity of social norms. Reading about the disasters was interesting, but I feel like the guy didn’t fully flesh out his ideas on homelessness. The kids in class were pointing out that he’s still super lonely, and that none of us today could do what he did. So, if Chomei’s ideas were so profound, how come they’re not relevant today?
I did not have a poetic experience this week.
Week two of Japanese Culture had us discussing the ideas presented during week one, but in a more focused way. For instance, we touched again on the basic principles of Japanese religion and animism, (Lecture 2) making sure to note “nonsymbolic reading of symbols” (Class, 1/30). I believe the Professor said something along the lines of “if you don’t get this, you won’t get the entire semester.” So it’s pretty important. After that, we moved along to the history of Japan, and how it was shaped from Utsusemi to Hakanasa to Mujo. (Inoye, 26-27) And this transformation (both cultural and religious) was described in later pages, with an emphasis on Heian writing. (Inoye, 34-35) Finally, after the overview of time, place, and general concepts, we read some of the writing on our own. The writing in As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams focused upon a woman’s exploration of herself and her religion through dream and poem(Bridge, 34, 63, 82). Of particular note is the overall trend of her writing that goes from expanative to evanescent as she grows older.(Bridge, 102+). I was shocked at how short the thing was. (34 chapters, 80 small pages) An entire life, and she only made this many journal entries?!
Walking along Powderhouse around 4:00pm, feeling uninspired and frustrated at a boring tree while disappointed by the short Winter daylight.
Not this leaf, nor this tree,
I mourn the loss of the day.
cold, and dark, so early.
I’m really enjoying the pacing of the class. It seems that Tufts has put a lot of trust in the Professor, and he seems to know what he’s doing. I understand the concept of evanescence, I think. Finding beauty in the fragile and temporal. “Dying at the height of… beauty, … the fate of us all,” sums up the idea nicely. (Inoye, 2) If something’s eternal, there’s no real point in celebrating it. It can be taken for granted without consequence. But form eludes me. The very first class explained that form makes meaning possible in a “world of constant change.” (Lecture, 1/16) Is it a reaction to an oversensitivity to change? Were the ancient Japanese people so concerned with the fragility of the world that they insisted on strict rituals for meaning, evidenced by the Japanese artists who learned by rigid practice? (Lecture, 1/23) Finally, we covered the essence of Japanese Shinto, which is animistic and differs from traditional symbolic religions in one key way: while Mt. Olympus was revered because it represented the throne of the Gods, Mt. Futagami or Tachi were revered for their own majesty. (Kitagawa, 46)